Big Opening Weekend

The baseball season got off to a big start with the Rebels winning three in a top 15 matchup with TCU at Swayze Field.

I go by the Baseball America rankings, and those will be released later today.

I made two of the three games over the weekend, and here are a few thoughts:

Bobby Wahl: As good as an ace should be against a solid club, a strong 6.1 innings and could have gone more. He was taken out when he reached a pitch count that was set for him at less than 100 pitches. Wahl was careful with a couple of guys, TCU’s big first baseman Kevin Cron comes to mind, and finished with three walks but had eight strikeouts and most importantly no runs. He retired 21 of the 25 batters he faced.

Bullpen: Mike Bianco talked about the quality of this group at his preseason presser and it showed up in the first series, particularly with senior right-hander Tanner Bailey, who relieved Wahl on Friday and retired all five batters he faced when clearly the Rebels were needed to make one run stand up. There was a little more breathing room with a 5-2 lead on Sunday, and Bailey was sharp again, pitching another scoreless 1.2 innings and giving up just one hit.

Brett Huber saved the first two games, becoming the school’s all-time saves leader in the process. There was a little too much drama each time. Friday wasn’t really Huber’s fault. A leadoff error at short opened the door, and a well-placed bunt had runners on first and second with no outs. TCU then sacrificed for the first out, and an intentional walk loaded the bases. Huber coerced his second ground ball of the inning, and this one was resulted in a double play to end the game only after the umpire called interference on the TCU runner as the tying run crossed the plate. Huber had a bigger lead on Saturday, 5-2. TCU hit him three times but still didn’t score.

Aaron Greenwood was strong with 3.1 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief on Saturday. He walked one and struck out four.

Jeremy Massie and Scott Weathersby were effective in situational use on Sunday, and the only run allowed by the bullpen all weekend came against Josh Laxer who relieved Chris Ellis in the fifth in that game.

Offense: Facing pitching better than you often see in an opening series, the offense was neither dormant nor dynamic. It was effective.

The Rebels manufactured a run with small ball in the fifth inning on Friday and had timely hitting on Saturday in the fifth inning from Will Jamison and in the eighth inning from Tanner Mathis and Auston Bousfield. They also benefitted from a TCU error in the four-run eighth on Saturday.

Junior college transfer catcher Stuart Turner delivered the Rebels’ only home run of the weekend — a grand slam — to provide an early cushion in Sunday’s 5-2 win.

Bousfield, the sophomore center fielder, has drawn comparisons to a younger version of Alex Yarbrough and lived up to those expectations with solid defense and a 5-for-11 weekend at the plate.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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